Missouri Senate passes congressional redistricting plan

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 | 9:41 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The state Senate passed a plan Wednesday to redraw Missouri's congressional districts based on the 2010 Census, and some lawmakers expressed hope that a final product could soon be presented to Gov. Jay Nixon.

The Senate voted 22-11 for its redistricting map after some members first blocked a vote on a version previously passed by the House.

Missouri must consolidate its nine current congressional districts into eight because its population growth during the past decade lagged behind that of the nation's. Both the House and Senate proposals would focus that consolidation on St. Louis by placing Democratic Reps. William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan into the same urban district. The plans diverge primarily in how they would divide the St. Louis suburbs, as well as central and southern Missouri.

The Senate version of the legislation now goes back to the House, which can either accept the changes and send the plan to Nixon or ask for a conference committee with senators to try to work out a compromise. Either way, a resolution could come relatively quickly.

Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Scott Rupp said lawmakers hope to send a final version of the redistricting plan to the governor by Monday to ensure they have enough time to consider a veto override — if necessary — before their regular session ends May 13. When bills passed closer to the end of session are vetoed, the legislature reconvenes in September to consider veto overrides.

Nixon has not given any public indication of whether he would sign or veto the redistricting proposals put forth by the Republican-led House and Senate.

Most House Democrats opposed the plan passed by that chamber. In the Senate, support and opposition were based more on regional concerns than party lines. But Republicans are unlikely to pass any plan that would force two incumbent Republican Congress members into the same district.

Because of the often partisan nature of redistricting, "I have to go under the assumption that he will veto this," said Rupp, R-Wentzville.

If that happens, legislators would need a two-thirds vote in each chamber to override the governor's decision, which means House Republicans would need to pick up support from a few Democrats. And it also means some Republicans who voted against the redistricting plan Wednesday would need to switch sides and support an override — something Rupp assured would occur, if necessary.

House Redistricting Committee Chairman John Diehl, R-Town and Country, said Wednesday evening that he needed to discuss the Senate plan with House leaders and Republican members before deciding whether to try to adopt the Senate version or negotiate a compromise.

Either way, "I'm not anticipating a veto," Diehl said.

Senators reached a vote on their version only after a quick procedural move by Rupp, who brought the bill up while an opponent of the plan — Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton — was not in the chamber. When Stouffer returned, he stalled a vote for a while but eventually relented. Stouffer is upset that the Kansas City district of Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver would be extended to include the rural western Missouri area where Stouffer lives.

Stouffer expressed hope that the House would push for negotiations.

"We're still striving to come up with a fair map," he said after the Senate vote.

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